Chef Adria Marina was born in San Diego but has been a fixture in the Tijuana restaurant and culinary scene for over a decade. Her family moved to the border city when she was a child, and – when asked – she will identify as a proud Tijuanense.
After studying at Tijuana’s prestigious Culinary Art School, Marina migrated north to work at République in Los Angeles. She eventually returned to her adopted hometown to take the helm at Misión 19— Javier Plascencia’s modern Mexican restaurant, often credited with helping launch Tijuana’s gastronomic renaissance when it opened in 2011.
While she learned refinement at these fine dining establishments, Adria’s next move was to launch a decidedly more casual ramen cart at Tijuana colectivo, Teléfonica Gastro Park. Here, she paid homage to the city’s history of Japanese immigrants by serving large bowls of broth heaped with noodles and marinated pork. She also opened food truck Azarosa, where she intertwined California modern with French flair.
At Georgina, the Zona Rio restaurant Marina inaugurated in 2018, she combines an intricate layering of flavors with her passion for international comfort food to great effect. “Georgina was born to provide a new interpretation of classic flavors with European influence,” the chef shares. “We are recalling the restaurants of yesteryear by mixing the classic with the modern.”
The space reflects Adria’s culinary juxtaposition. It exudes a sense of casual elegance with an interior that’s sophisticated, yet comfortable. Service that’s exacting, yet familiar. And the dishes proportion traits from the cuisines of Baja California, northern and coastal Mexico, the Mediterranean, France and Asia.
A prime example of these syntheses is Georgina’s costilla de res en cocción lenta — slow cooked beef short rib braised in red wine with potatoes, chanterelles, capers, peas and parsley, topped with a delicate doily of a tostada infused with squid ink. The short rib – ubiquitous in Baja California restaurants – is satisfyingly savory and so tender, it falls apart with a subtle brush of the fork. The braising in red wine and addition of rustic accoutrements transports one from the urban pastiche of Tijuana to a farmhouse kitchen in Bordeaux.
Rural France is best accessed after touring Georgina’s tantalizing menu of entradas, including carpaccio de salmón ahumado, an appetizer of Venetian origin. The carpaccio is crafted from thinly sliced smoked salmon marinated in lemon juice and olive oil and served with labne (Middle Eastern yogurt), salmon roe, capers, dill, shallots and radish and sprinkled with tortilla ash. The snap of the tortilla ash, radish and capers adds a welcome texture to the succulent salmon.
Georgina also serves several handmade pastas. The fusilli y burrata is another Italian-inspired dish of fusilli bathed in a creamy, mildly spicy vodka sauce of Calabrian chili, tomato and beet. The burrata – stracciatella cheese and cream encased in mozzarella – is stirred until it melts like white velvet in the spiraled pasta. Lightly fried calamari offer a sweet and nutty counterpoint to the tangy sauce.
The chef honors Tijuana with her Ensalada “Marina” — based on the classic Caesar salad first tossed in TJ in the 1920s. The salad features several springy leaves of Romaine lettuce accompanied by roasted vegetables and garnished with crumbled croutons and parmesan cheese. What helps her version stand out from – and quite possibly top – the original is her luxuriant, creamy Caesar dressing, rich in umami with the perfect amount of lemon and garlic.
To finish, the chef recommends the sinfully sublime croissant bread pudding y plátano flameado. This perfect postre returns the diner to France via the UK as Marina substitutes croissant for the day-old bread of Anglo yore. The pudding is accompanied by bananas flambé and the entire affair is bathed in a delightful toffee sauce, another comingling of the French and the British.
With Georgina, chef Adria Marina has established herself as one of Tijuana’s premier culinary talents. Her efforts were noticed in 2019 when Georgina was listed as one of Mexico’s Top 120 Restaurants by San Pellegrino and Culinaria Mexicana. Marina enthuses, “To be on this list is an exciting and wonderful achievement.”
Georgina is a requisite stop for discerning diners in search of thoughtfully prepared international cuisine served in a relaxing atmosphere in metropolitan Tijuana.
Georgina is located at Antonio Caso 2020, Zona Urbana Rio, Tijuana, Baja California 22010. Reservations recommended via OpenTable. Brunch: Mon-Sat 8AM-2PM, Sun 8AM-4PM Dinner: Mon-Wed 5-10PM, Thu-Sat 5-11PM. +52 (664) 684-8156, www.georgina.mx.
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Artículo original de W. Scott Koening